Don’t Get Beat by the Heat by Shannon Lynch
Spending lots of time outdoors during the warm weather months of July and August is a given for most of us who live in northern New Hampshire. These are the days of gardening, swimming, boating, hiking, biking, and barbecuing that we look forward to during the cold and storms of winter. And even though Covid-19 has placed restrictions on what we can do this summer, it seems a sure bet that we’ll still be looking for lots of safe opportunities to be outside to take advantage of the sunshine.
Seniors, though, are especially vulnerable to summer’s high temperatures and humidity, as they are more susceptible to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Health experts note that older individuals are more likely to develop heat-related illnesses because of age-related physical changes in the body (for instance, older people don’t sweat as much, and sweat is how you cool yourself down), chronic health conditions and medication-related issues.
To protect yourself from getting “beat by the heat” on sizzling summer days, check out these tips.
- Drink Up: To keep well hydrated, drink plenty of cool water and sports drinks like Gatorade. It’s also important to drink up on a regular basis, especially when you are outdoors, so don’t wait until you’re thirsty to grab your water bottle. Health experts also agree that it’s wise to limit caffeine (found in coffee, tea, and soda) and alcohol, as they tend to dehydrate you.
- Limit Time in the Sun: Plan activities like gardening or your daily walk for early morning or evening when it is cooler outside. If you’re considering a more strenuous activity, check the forecast and plan your outing to avoid extremely hot and humid days. You’ll still get to enjoy yourself but will avoid the worst of the heat.
- Dress for the Day: Loose-fitting, light-colored natural fabrics like cotton will keep you cooler and more comfortable than dark-colored clothing or synthetic fabrics that absorb the heat. Protect your head, face, and neck with a broad-brimmed hat. Apply sunscreen to all exposed body parts, wear sunglasses, and if you are going to be in areas frequented by mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting critters, spray yourself with insect repellent.
- Stay Cool Indoors: Close your curtains, blinds and shades during the heat of the day and open windows at night to catch the cool breezes. Run your air conditioner if you have one, or turn on overhead and standing and tabletop fans to up the coolness factor.
- Be A Cool Cook: Avoid using your stove and oven on sweltering days by planning ahead. Prepare cold salads, whip up a fruit smoothie, or create an appetizing spread of cold meats, cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit, and a piece of crusty bread. If you are a fan of grilling outdoors, now’s the time to fire up your grill and let it do the heavy work while keeping you out of a hot kitchen.
- Cool As A Cucumber: Next to a jump in the lake or pool, taking a cool bath or shower is downright refreshing after time in the sun. If you don’t have time to jump in the shower, splash cool water on your face and arms and drape a washcloth or towel dipped in cool water across your neck to bring your body temperature down.
- Monitor Your Medications: Some prescription medications make people more sensitive to the sun, and some medications degrade under hot conditions. Check with your health care provider to be sure your medications are working as they should under hot summer conditions.
By implementing some common-sense measures, it’s possible to beat the heat, stay cool, and safely enjoy these long-awaited summer days.
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.